Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas University

Copyright, Fair Use, and More

An introduction to copyright and fair use.

Subject Guide

Rebel Cummings-Sauls

Research Toolbox

Need help with your project? Follow the links below!

Research: How-To A guide on writing a research paper.

Citation: How-To A guide covering several citation formats.

Database Searching Several video tutorials on using databases.

Requesting Permission

The safest route to using copyrighted work is to obtain permission from the copyright holder. With permission, you may be able to use the entire work or to use it in ways not allowed by Fair Use.

There are 3 ways to approach requesting permission:

1. Contact the publisher

If the work you want to use is a published work (book, article, etc.), it's probably best to contact the publisher directly

2. Collective rights agencies

Some fields have central offices to facilitate the permission request process for a fee.  See the list of major collective rights agencies listed on the K-State Copyright Pages.

3. Contact the copyright holder

If a work has not been published or commercially released, try to determine the author/creator and contact that person directly.

Permission Requests

As you prepare your permission request letter, be sure to include these elements:

  • How you plan to use the work
  • The portion of the work you want to use. Give page numbers, time references for audio or video works.
  • How the work will be distributed (on a password protected web site, only to the students in a class, class handout, etc.)
  • How long the work will be available
  • Why the work is essential to your work
  • Your name and contact information
  • A section the copyright holder can sign and return to you documenting that permission was granted

Here are few examples of frameworks for permission requests:

Sample letter requesting permission to use copyrighted material without a charge
Sacramento State University Library

Sample Letter Requesting Permission
Office of General Counsel, University of Texas System

Sample Copyright Permission Request
K-State Office of Academic Personnel

What if I can't find the copyright holder?

There may be cases where you can't determine the copyright owner, or they don't respond to your request. If this happens, you'll need to assess the risk involved in using the work without permission. The University recommends adhearing to the Fair Use guidelines if this circumstance were to occur, or just not using the work at all. While it is possible that a documented search for the copyright owner could lessen the damage award if a court found it as infringement, there are not cases establishing a precedent for this issue.